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San Diego Humane Society

Rattlesnakes: Coexisting with Wildlife

Removal

Although we do not currently work with rattlesnakes, below is some helpful information on them, including how to deter them from living near your house, what to do if you discover one and what to do if you are bitten by a one. 

If you have rattlesnakes living in your yard and would like advice on how to erect rattlesnake barricades, please contact Tom's Snakes & Rattlesnake Rescue at 619-933-1213.

How to Deter Rattlesnakes

Fencing

One way to deter rattlesnakes from entering your yard is by adding a low-level rattlesnake-proof fence around the perimeter of your yard. While this is not a cheap option, it is very effective and can reassure you that a particular zone of your home is safe from rattlesnakes. If cost is an issue or you are only worried about rattlesnakes entering a particular area, you don't need to wall off your entire backyard; for example, you can select an area for the children or pets to play in and only fence off that part. This becomes the "safety zone."

  • Use a mesh that is not wider than a quarter of an inch in diameter or use solid material.  Any un-textured material is best as snakes cannot climb smooth surfaces because they cannot get a solid grip.
  • The fence must be at least 3 feet tall and buried at least 3 inches in the ground.
  • Take care with corners, so as not to create a bellyhold (snake for "toehold") on the fence.
  • Be careful with any gates.  If you don't join the fence to the walls of your house, it is important to ensure that any gate has no gaps on the sides and sits flush with the ground.  It can help to place a concrete slab directly under the gate going into the ground as a deterrent - this must sit flush with the base of the gate.
  • Be sure to maintain the fence -- all gaps and holes must be fixed quickly to prevent possible entry points.

Remove Hiding Spots

Remove shrubs, overhanging vegetation and any other plants from the perimeter of the fence.
Do not lean anything against the fence that a rattlesnake might be able to use as leverage to crawl over. 

Check Under and Around the House 

Look for gaps or areas that a rattlesnake can use to access underneath the house and fill, plug or board off these areas.  Under the house is an ideal environment for a snake as it provides them with protection, so be sure to check the walls, foundation, stairs and any other places snakes may be able to use to find an entry point.

Avoid Piles

Keep wood piles and any other materials stored in your backyard away from the home. 
If you already have piles, be careful when removing them as a snake or other animal may have already settled there.

Keep the Rodents Under Control

Remember that rattlesnakes are only coming near our homes because they're finding a resource, like food. Rodents make up a large portion of snakes' diets, so by rodent-proofing your house and getting rid of mice, rats and other rodents, you will remove a major source of rattlesnake attractant. This is especially important around areas where animal food is stored on farms.

Other Food Sources

Keep other food sources out of the reach of snakes. 
This means keeping pet food inside or covered. Garbage cans should be securely covered at all times.

Nesting Sites

Eliminate rattlesnake homes and nesting sites. 
Potential areas for rattlesnakes to build nests should be removed from the area around your home. This includes such things as wood piles, rock piles, garbage piles, long grass, brush, undergrowth or piles of building materials. Think about the places that would be cozy for a snake to move into and remove them, but remember to be careful when you do! There may already be a rattlesnake in residence.

Keep It Mowed

Keep lawns and fields around the house mowed. 
A short lawn or field is not a great place to hide and makes it very easy for you to spot a rattlesnake taking a shortcut. Be careful, however, not to provide sheltering places such as piles of timber or rocks that create safety stations for snakes crossing short grass, or you will not succeed in discouraging them.

Know your snakes! 

Some snakes can be good to have around as they deter rattlesnakes from hanging around through natural competition.  Of course, this depends on your own level of squeamishness about having any snakes at all in your backyard!  If you don't mind the snakes, appreciate seeing the gopher snakes and kingsnakes in your area as they are non-venomous and excellent rodent control.

Remain Calm  

If you do discover a rattlesnake in your backyard, keep calm.  Send children, pets and scared adults indoors immediately.  Wait for the snake to leave.  Call for professional assistance if you are concerned that the rattlesnake may be settling in, but if you have made your yard as unfavorable to a snake as possible following the guidelines above, the snake will leave if given the chance.  There are strict laws regarding killing rattlesnakes in any other situation than an immediate threat and in your own self-defense -- most rattlesnakes will only strike if acting in self-defense and are typically nonaggressive.  If you leave them alone and give them lots of space, they will leave you alone.

What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Rattlesnake

  • Stay calm, get safely away from the snake and have someone call 9-1-1 (or the emergency number in your area).  The less the victim moves the bitten site, the less likely the venom will spread and cause further damage.
  • Have the victim lie down with the affected limb lower than the heart and immobilized.  If practical, splint the limb.
  • Treat the victim for shock and preserve their body heat by wrapping them in a towel or blanket.
  • Remove any rings, bracelets, boots or other restricting items from the bitten limb, as it will begin to swell and those items might restrict blood flow.
  • Wash the bite with soap and water (if available).
  • If the victim has to walk out, sit calmly for 20-30 minutes to let the venom localize at the site, proceed calmly to the nearest source of help and try to avoid unnecessary exertion which will stimulate circulation of the venom. Get the victim to definitive medical care for anti-venom, which will provide the greatest relief from the toxic effects of the bite.

Actions to Avoid:

DO NOT cut the bite. The additional tissue damage may actually increase the diffusion of the toxins throughout the body.

DO NOT apply a tourniquet.  Such action can result in the loss of the limb.

NEVER try to suck out the venom by mouth.  You can try the suction cup in a snakebite kit if it doesn't delay other needed treatment; however, suctioning seldom provides any measurable advantages.

DO NOT apply cold and/or ice packs.  Recent studies indicate that application of cold or ice makes the injury much worse.


To learn how to train your dog(s) to safely avoid rattlesnakes using positive training methods, visit: tawzerdog.com

 

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